This whole idea of using rewards to strengthen relationships with employees is nothing new. But employers are continually inventing new ways to implement this form of relationship marketing all the time to keep customers and – more and more – employees engaged and coming back – or in the case of great workers sticking around.
Back in the day, engaging employees used to mean providing nice perks. I think it started with dress-down Fridays and pizza lunches bought by executives as a fun way to end the week.  When the economy was chugging along at a breakneck pace, the stakes were raised. Companies felt compelled to offer free food every day, ping-pong and foosball tables and even, in at least one instance I know about, build elaborate facilities with a full-scale gym with free fitness classes, weight room, an indoor track and Olympic-size swimming pool!
Now that most companies are looking for ways to both trim costs and keep valuable employees, the focus has changed again.
Now, engagement is more about making employees feel valued when a big bonus and annual raise is out of reach and economic jitters are widespread.
There’s a new meaning to value proposition for employees in corporations. This new value proposition bears out in study after study. Right Management, the talent and career management expert arm of Milwaukee-based Manpower Inc., found in a survey of company leaders and HR professionals earlier this year that employee engagement is the most important practice to reach goals in this economy.
“Leaders must manage this situation very skillfully or they are likely to see those remaining either start looking for another job, disengage from the company attitudinally, or simply ‘quit and stay’ while waiting until the air clears,” explains Right CEO Owen Sullivan.
Yikes! Start looking? Disengage? Stay-and-quit?  Just when we think it’s all about customers-customer-customers, the experts come along and tell us our best employees are in danger of apathy!
How do you engage now? Sullivan advises leaders to:

  1. Spend time with employee and executives (what management guru Tom Peters refers to as “the talent”);
  2. Answer their questions to the best of your ability;
  3. And, most importantly, continually reinforce each employee’s value to the company.

This isn’t a difficult as it sounds, simple measures work in reinforcing employee value.
They key is to keep engagement and value at the top of mind each and every day.
Rick Kiley is Presidnet of gThankYou, LLC, based in Madison, WI.  gThankYou® Certificates of Gratitude™ are one way  savvy companies demonstrate commitment to valued employees. The company is best known for its Turkey Gift Certificates, Ham Gift Certificates, and Grocery Gift Cards.

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